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“Living a life that I couldn’t have conjured up on my own”: The story behind Ponder and Bind

Jasmine Lin // March 24, 2021, 3:05 pm

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I am turning 32 next month, and quite honestly life did not turn out the way I imagined. I do not hold what most call a “proper job”. All the visions I had for my life throughout my teenage and young adulthood years have not become a reality today.

I remember sitting in my school hall receiving my O-Level results, which were less than stellar. My entire cohort had done spectacularly well – the best the school had seen over the last decade. My score placed me right at the bottom of my cohort. They were all intelligent, talented, or both. 

My application for Direct School Admission (DSA) to the junior college (JC) I really wanted was rejected. I was convinced I could never make it. I felt left behind, unqualified and unworthy of good things happening. 

The 16-year-old me wanted to get into a particular JC where most of my peers ended up in and go on to a local university, then land a job and climb the corporate ladder. None of these came to pass.

Taking the unconventional path, I chose to enrol in a fashion marketing course instead of heading to a polytechnic or JC. 

When it came to work, I always had small businesses on top of other work that I did. In fact, I spent an entire year waiting for a full-time job while I ran businesses and engaged in freelance work. My first few ventures were based on passions that I pursued. But at some point, something shifted.

I started seeing my businesses as a way to help others while also achieving a sense of fulfilment. These include launching a wedding flower and decor business, so that couples can focus on preparing for their marriage and not just the wedding.

Every time I started a business, I hoped that God would use me as a vessel to not just bless others but also reflect a sort of glory and grace that only He can bring.

Whenever I felt it was time to let go, I would do so – not without a hint of bittersweetness – knowing that God had done whatever He needed to do. I only needed to sit with Him and continue on this journey.

Sometimes, we need to say “no” to a good thing to wholeheartedly give ourselves over to a God thing. 

I am currently the founder of Ponder and Bind (P&B), a Christian online bookstore birthed from the floor of my bedroom (yes, really). To get here, I needed to understand that to say “yes” to something meant saying “no” to something else. Sometimes, we need to say “no” to a good thing to wholeheartedly give ourselves over to a God thing. 

P&B came about of my own experiences as a first-generation Christian. My first few years as a believer were spent in a church with a strong emphasis on His word, which really shaped my idea of God and a relationship with Him.

When I moved overseas for my studies and started visiting other churches, I would later experience for myself the nearness of God through the Holy Spirit. It was a beautiful moment that I cannot describe – one that showed me another side to this mysterious God whom I love and worship.

And yet I saw a gap.

It all began one night when I got increasingly frustrated with my devotional life, wondering why I had seemingly traded God for good content – engaging sermons, riveting podcasts and even great worship songs. Everything except the living word.

Between conferences, camps and encounters with God, I found myself riding on waves brought about by second-hand revelation. God’s word became a convenient snack I would devour at grand settings or in bite-sized portions dished out via social media. 

After years of being a Christian, my devotional life had gotten stale. 

I began the search for a devotional journal that provided some structure without being too rigid (we’ve all missed a few days… if you haven’t, please teach me your secrets!), while probing us to live out our faith beyond Sunday. 

When I couldn’t find anything that resonated, I wanted to be a part of the solution. And thus, together with a few talented friends, we created the Small Beginnings Journal, which is now in its second edition.

It is for those who only know God in a distant manner – to ask questions that connect to their emotions; to think about how God relates to them beyond theological terms, but to shift from head knowledge to heart living.

It is also for those who only experience God once in awhile and struggle to be disciplined to hear from Him directly; to not live from one emotional high to the next, but to go to Him as their top priority every day.

Through speaking to many people around me, I realised that it was common to feel far from God or burn out when we are serving from our own strength without drawing from God Himself. I hope to bridge that gap with P&B.

To strip away the bells and whistles, the busyness and distractions of serving, and to swallow hard but good truths and make changes to our daily living. To align all the spheres of our lives to Him, for Him. To not have any part of our lives hidden away for our personal gain. 

It is my hope that every product we carry illuminates Him, His word and His beauty as we navigate fears, doubts, inadequacies, struggles in a real, honest way. These range from journals for Quiet Time that also come in a workplace edition, to books on marriage and parenthood as well as entertaining and educational resources for children. 

I desire to see well-designed products that are modern and beautiful enough to receive and give others as well as spark conversations with both believers and non-believers.

What comes to mind when you ponder on this verse? 

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:19 ESV)

There have been times where I’ve found myself in a bind and clung onto this promise that He makes all things new.

As I look back on my life, I can say with total conviction that God has consistently made a way when I could not even take my next step. Even with dashed dreams and seemingly hopeless situations, I find myself learning to surrender, day by day.

Watching Him move. Being healed from hurt. Pursuing dreams. Living a life that I could not have conjured up on my own. 

“Don’t follow your dreams; follow Jesus.” 

If I could sum up my experiences in the last half of my life, I would borrow the words of Brooke Ligertwood, who heads Hillsong Worship globally.

When asked: “What would you say to young people who want to follow their dreams?”, she replied: “Don’t follow your dreams; follow Jesus.” 

Through the twists and turns of life – and now with marriage and motherhood – I have learnt that to not be fully committed to a call that God has given because I sought comfort in my passion projects is a sobering thought.

As I imagined the day I would see God face to face and He would say: “Why did you not do it when I asked?”, I knew my answer could have been: “I did not want to. I was afraid. It was uncomfortable.” Yikes. 

When I realised that P&B was bigger than myself, I realised I had a choice to make.

He could choose to do all of these with someone else through other means. After all, He is such a creative God! But the fact that He would consider me and partner with me, every single day – what an honour!

From job hopper to business owner: An entrepreneur’s winding path to success

Trusting that He would provide, taking leaps of faith, treading uncharted waters… it’s all very counterintuitive to my anxious, worrying, fearful self. But if not for God, where would I be?

And if I am called to let go of this one day, I would obey, knowing He definitely will walk with me no matter what.

I believe He is extending that invitation to you too. Are you willing to take steps of faith, even when you are afraid? Are you looking to journey with Him, little by little? He is calling.

He is ever so patient, waiting for you to surrender. He knows your fears, hopes and dreams, and the mundane moments in between. Follow Him and watch the adventure unfold. 

Would you sit with Him?

Ponder and Bind is giving away 2 sets of journal bundles for you and a friend! Each bundle has 2 Small Beginnings journals filled with devotional content that helps you discover who God is and who you have been created to be. 

To stand a chance to win, follow Ponder and Bind and Thir.st on Instagram, like this post and tag someone to encourage them in their walk with God. Two of the best entries will be picked. This giveaway starts on Wednesday (March 24) and ends on Sunday (March 28). Winners will be announced the following Monday (March 29).

THINK + TALK

  1. How would you describe your devotional life? 
  2. Are you committed to following Jesus more than following your dreams? What would that entail?
  3. In what ways might God be using your gifts and talents to bless others?